Family Wellbeing with Dr Emma Hepburn
Posted by PR Neom
How did you get into being a clinical psychologist?
I started studying architecture, but I was more interested in people than buildings, so I changed to study psychology. I have now been a clinical psychologist for 14 years. I have always worked with people, interested in people, how they operate, and how our brains work, so clinical psychology is an amalgamation of all my interests.
How does the psychological makeup of our brain affect our mental health?
It's a question we don't fully understand yet. There's a lot of theories! Ongoing stress and the brain's response to stress enables us to know where to direct our energy. The sympathetic nervous system gets us ready for action. If our fight or flight system is triggered for too long and there's too much stress, we know it has a negative impact on everything - our brain, body, blood pressure, immune system, and mental health.
Looking after your mental health as a preventative measure before you tip over into anything problematic. Explain a bit about that?
For too long, we've focused on mental health when it's gone wrong, but then it's gone wrong, and we have to fix it. But, just like we do with our physical health, we can put in place preventative strategies to manage the impact of stress, manage how our bodies are responding that can help prevent it from happening. We can't control everything in our lives, but we can build up our protective coping strategies to hopefully reduce mental health issues.
What are the key basic strategies and tools that work for both adults and kids?
A lot of strategies work for both adults and children.
First of all, it’s understanding your emotions and not being ashamed of them or criticising yourself, but seeing them as signals of your needs giving you the chance to verbalise what your needs are, and that improves your mental health.
Sleep & Social interactions
The second part is focusing on two of the predictors of mental health, which are good sleep and social interactions.
Social interactions are key - they predict everything. They predict health, how long you'll live, your mental health.In longitudinal studies, social interaction and positive social relationships show to be the strongest predictors of everything. So, we cannot underplay relationships. These relationships are so crucial.
Often, when we’re stressed, we want to hide away, so it’s so important to continue interaction when you’re stressed, as much as possible. When we’re in that stressed headspace, we can be caught up in our brains, but being around others is relaxing and helps us to get things off our minds.
Finding your why
Another good predictor of mental health is living in line with your values, or your ‘why.’ Ask yourself - ‘what’s your why in life?’ what gives you purpose and is meaningful to you?
One of the ways we sometimes look at that is asking yourself - ‘What would you be most proud of looking back in life?’. What would be the most meaningful thing to you? What’s the thing that makes you feel alive?
This can change in life and different stages in your life. It's hard to find your why, and in my new book ‘A Toolkit For Modern Life’ there is a whole chapter on finding your why and although it sounds easy it can be quite tricky - almost like doing a life audit.
I talk about something called ‘The Values Tree’ - it's about identifying what your why is and once you've done this and then put how you're going to apply this to your life.
Don't devalue the basics
Sometimes we think it’s something difficult that improves our mental health, but the basic things like taking breaks and drinking water are fundamental. Prioritising those little things as well as prioritising the things that make us feel good. We’re so bad at writing a list of all the things we need to do and get through, and not prioritise downtime and joyful activities - not fit them into those little pockets of life, because that’s the whole point of life that is meaningful to us. The big things are the little things
For the full video interview watch it here and to check out the brilliant Dr Emma Hepburn and her brilliant new book A Toolkit for Modern Life.
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